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Joe B. Roles

Book Title
Title: Mary Jane's War

Available: Amazon


Americas History Lady was fortunate to have attended a breakfast gathering of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) at the Kena Shriners, Fairfax, VA, where Joe E. Roles, the author of  Mary Jane's War, was the guest speaker. His explaination of how he and his co-author Malcolm McKinley Weikle ( who died before the book was published) decided to write the story, and the interest the book has generated, along with the plans for TV and film were so compeling that I purchased the book and read it the night of the day I brought it home. Since Mary Jane's War is a Civil War novel based on a true story I thought the Americans History Networkaudience would be interested in learning more about the author and the story so I invited Joe to be our featured author for March and share with us additional information below about the book. The book is available on Amazon. I hope you enjoy his article. Now, here's Joe.



There was a lot more to the Civil War than the generals and the fighting.

There were the women and children.

This is a different kind of Civil War story.

Mary Jane Arnott Smith was a real person and this is based upon a true story of courage, strength, determination, character and love. This is how she took a wagon and a pair of mules 120 miles over a mountain and through enemy lines during the winter to pick up her soldier husbands remains and bring them home for burial.

She came from hearty stock in that her grandfather served with the 26th Battalion Virginia Infantry during the Revolutionary War and was given a land grant in Western Virginia where he pioneered a farm and raised a huge family. Mary Jane’s hard work and responsibilities while growing up prepared her for this heroic journey.

That was near where The Salt Sulphur Springs resort developed in the 1820’s, “The Salt,” as it is referred to,  was developed around three mountain springs, one of which was a rare iodine spring, It attracted wealthy southern planters who came for therapeutic waters both for drinking and bathing. The cool mountain air also allowed them to escape the heat, malaria and yellow fever of the low lands of South Carolina. The guests, mostly of French Huguenot decent would stay from May until late September.

The resort attracted many distinguished guests prior to the Civil War such as President Martin Van Buren, senators such as John C. Calhoun and even General G.T. Beauregard who lead the bombardment on Fort Sumter to begin the Civil War.

Mary Jane witnessed the society and culture of those antebellum days as she worked at the hotel when she wasn’t working on the farm. As evidence of her hard work, she chopped off a finger on her left hand as she cut off the heads of chickens for the hotel kitchen.

That era came to an end with the Civil War which not only devastated the local economy but the county found itself in West Virginia. The local people had been raised as citizens of Virginia and would remain loyal to The Confederacy.

By that time Mary Jane was married to Ralph Smith, and they had seven children. Ralph at, age 37 and with his responsibilities was reluctant to join Company D of the 30th Virginia Battalion of Virginia Sharpshooter, which was part of Warton Division under the command of Major General John C. Breckinridge.

In the mean while Mary Jane was operating the farm she was hitching up a team of horses, a bee stung one of the mares which kicked and caught Mary Jane’s left hand in a single tree and crushed her small fingers. She road a horse to town and had those two fingers amputated and she was back in the field working that afternoon.

In May of 1865, word was received that Union General Franz Segal’s  army was marching up the valley to New Market where it would turneast through the mountain pass and attack General Lee’s army near Fredericksburg. Breckinridge’s army rushed down the valley and met the Union Army at New Market. In the (500 Words) course of that battle Ralph was shot in the right leg. The surgeon used a lithotomy (bullet scoop) to remove the miniball and Ralph was sent by wagon to Harrisonburg General Hospital. The Confederates had an advantage in that they had to reuse bandages which meant thatMary Janes War BK Cov they had to boil the used bandages to sterilize them, whereas the Union Army use new bandages that were not sterilize. However, Ralph died from gangrene one month later. His remains were placed in a shroud containing a preparation of two pounds lime, two pounds salt, two pounds alum, one pound of saltpeter in six gallons of water to preserve the body. From there he was taken to VMI with a letter to the next of kin.

Mary Jane didn’t receive the letter until the end of
September, at which time she stood up in church and announced that she was going to pick up his remains.This was an enormous decision for a woman with seven children and one good hand to travel 120 miles into unknown territory and it caused great concern for her family and neighbors. There were crops in the field and detailed preparations to be made, but her family all offered help. When to go? They selected January 2nd for three reasons:  1) There would be less fighting between the armies in the cold weather 2) The dirt roads would be frozen and travel would be faster 3) Ralphs body would be more likely to stay frozen on the trip.

Mary Jane could not drive for 18 days with one good hand so to help her there one was a freed slave, named Trip. He would take a pair mules that he had broken as the Union Army would take horses and instead were afraid of mean mountain mules. Ralph’s father said that they was less likely to be robbed with among more people so Mary Jane selected her three oldest boys ages 16, 13 and 11 to go as scouts.

The route would be from their home in Lillydale to Union, Sweet Springs, and Clifton Forge and then they could make a decision to either cross North Mountain or go by Buchanan to Lexington. They encountered

Union troops in Buchanan, which created drama, but she escaped by wearing a bonnet, smoking a corn cob pipe and applying charcoal to her face to appear to be old.

They arrived in Lexington on day 10, found Ralph’s remains in the burned out gymnasium and negotiated his release. As they would approach people along the way she would have the boys beg for food to make other people think that they had none so they wouldn’t be robbed.

On the way home they encounter a snow storm on North Mountain they were fortunate to find refuge in an old country church. They had to bring the mules and Ralph’s body inside to prevent them from being attacked by wolves during the night. The next day of trip they saw bodies along the road that had frozen in the storm.

They arrived home on Day 18 to a crowd lining the road to greet them.  Mary Jane had won her war!  49 years later she was buried next to Ralph when she died at age 89.


We have a non-profit corporation in place, a team of professionals, including a two time Emmy award winning actor, two scripts, assets, local and state support and funding is progressing.

This book Mary Jane’s War is available on Amazon.

We invite your interest and support to promote the story of a real Civil War heroine.

Joe B. Roles



C:\Users\HP\Pictures\Lane's website\Lane_at_desk (2).jpg
Lane Calhoon Dolly

Book Titles
A Distant Call: The Fateful Choices of Hattie Sheldon, 
No Turning Back: The Harrowing Journey of
Hattie Sheldon.

Available: Amazon



The April Edition of Americans History Network welcomes researcher and author, Lane Calhoon Dolly, author of two exciting books, A Distant Call: The Fateful Choices of Hattie Sheldon,  and No Turning Back: The Harrowing Journey of Hattie Sheldon. Both books available at Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/author/www.lanedolly.com

Lane brings a rich and diverse set of  professional and life experiences to her series of historical fiction novels. Grassroots politics led her from ranch country in Oklahoma to Washington , DC. in 1981.

She worked in President Reagan's White House, at three national conventions, as well as non-profits, private firms and government. Afterwards, a Master of Arts in Public Policy drew her to history and research.

Her discovery of the all-but-lost life story of a ground-breaking ancestor led her to study the Cherokee Nation before Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma.  Rich findings motivated these historically compelling tales whose timeless themes send striking messages about following your heart and persevering against all odds.


Walk thru 19th C America with
Hattie Sheldon

One choice changed  her destiny forever.

This historical fiction saga - based on the real life of Hattie Sheldon – opens in the 1840s when abolitionism, Indian removals, and women’s suffrage burst onto the landscape. Hattie ponders their lack of liberty: it ignites a sense of purpose to join her growing C:\Users\HP\Pictures\Lane's website\DistantCallCover2ndEd.jpgspirit of adventure. Inspired by trailblazers heading west to the frontier, the path of her life soon offers a chronicle of mid-19th century expansion, as well as struggle. Unusually well educated, while attending Amherst Academy in Massachusetts she discovers a historically significant family secret that alarms and awakens her to the other side of history’s story. She begins to dream of teaching the downcast in a faraway territory, which alarms her family.

When Hattie encounters an eminent but selfless hero to the marginalized Cherokees still fighting for sovereignty in Indian Territory -  her two competing choices collide.  Will her life be meaningful if she makes the safe choice to follow tradition or endangered if she risks everything for her fervent vision?
C:\Users\HP\Pictures\Lane's website\NoTurningBack_FRONT_v2 (2).jpg

 As her life unfolds, the reader walks beside Hattie to also feel the seams of the country’s unity unraveling.  Her growing maturity and understanding of far-reaching political and social upheavals only partially prepare her for stark realities incon-ceivable to people living safely in the original states.  Soon, she will toil daily – perhaps hourly - with the unexpected.

Vol 3 in Progress

With her great love of history, Lane follows in the steps of her grandmother, Wina Rae Calhoon, 
who was inducted posthumously to the Hall of Fame of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma in 2004.

  • A Distant Call:
    The Fateful Choices of Hattie Sheldon

  • No Turning Back: 
    The Harrowing Journeys of Hattie Sheldon

    Available at Amazon.co


Website: http://www.lanedolly.com   


Text: 703-447-3544



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